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Time For Industry To Win People’s Trust

Enough of anti-corruption discourse now. Time to get down to work. The people of India have put their trust in the leadership of Narendra Modi for a clean, transparent & efficient government. They have re-iterated it by reiterating their faith in him in the Maharashtra and Haryana elections on 20th October 2014. The government has proceeded on a path of corruption free India.  The question is: When is the Indian industry going to win the trust of the people of India?

As it is, the people have a very poor opinion of the private sector in the country. It has fallen short of public expectation of provider of world class goods and services and creating even high quality jobs for the genuinely talented. The result is all the national talent is flying away to foreign lands because the working conditions there are superior in every respect. The falling economic growth in September this year as compared to the previous year or year earlier is being cited as slow growth after Modi government coming to power. One measure of this tardiness is low credit flow to the industry. Unless one is always willing to get tricked by statistics, this low credit off take may even be suggestive of very good quality credit. After Modi coming, the organized crime of corruption has suffered great trauma and both the borrower and the lender have turned cautious. Earlier, a collusion of sorts between the corrupt borrower and lender was misdirecting credit to undeserving candidates, leading to losses to the banks, which have been euphemistically called NPA (Non Performing Asset). The reality is such assets were never meant to be productive in the first place. It was an exercise in robbing the banks and other financial institutions, largely in the public sector, of huge amounts of money borrowed  in the name of productive activity but diverted elsewhere, including foreign tax havens, in the full knowledge that the corrupt system will help them first get re-structured and re-scheduled and ultimately declared NPAs and so written off after a tiringly long period of legal battles, with the patronage of the political class. After Modi coming to power, the Chairman cum Managing Director of the Syndicate Bank was arrested and later dismissed for obtaining bribe of more than rupees fifty lakhs for sanctioning loans of such poor quality to such unworthy candidates! So the decrease in credit off take is due to improvement in the quality of credit. Once the borrowers come to believe that credit is available to them without paying bribes, they will approach the financial institutions with first class proposals. For that to happen, the India Inc. has to take the initiative and establish that it is not a partner in such illegal activities but genuinely and sincerely engaged on contributing to the economic growth of the country.

In this context interest rates have been cited as another stumbling block. They want the RBI (Reserve Bank Of India) to soften the interest rates. It is not a deterrent to growth, particularly if quality credit is available at no extra cost in the form of bribe . The Modi government is trusted to make it a reality after decades of established corruption, which has hampered growth, innovation, research and development. The success or failure of this government will be determined on this single standard of ease of availability of quality credit without paying bribes. The apparent high interest rates will look more comfortable in that kind of financial environment. Meanwhile, the RBI should make public the defaulters, the NPA account holders, who are shameless and vulgarly rich people and tax evaders of international quality whose huge wealth is stashed away in foreign banks. The country is not bound by any international treaty to not publicize such defaulters’ names (which is given as the ground in the case of black money account holders listed by Germany/Switzerland etc). If theiir names have not been made public so far, it was entirely due to the beneficiaries in the government, bureaucracy and every single law enforcement agency. This Order of Corruption has to end, and end it must NOW. If the Modi government falters on this count, it will never be able to correct the economic deformity afflicting this great and yet poor nation under continuing exploitation of the rich and the by now well known nexus of the Neta-Babu-Bureaucrat (the NN Vohra Committee report. N N Vohra was the Union Home Secretary then). While the RBI engages on this exercise, the India Inc. has to start behaving honest, transparent and dignified right from this moment. Expecting the government to be transparent while the corporate sector freely indulges in financial corruption amounts to nothing less than the Devil quoting the scriptures!

The industry has been raising many questions about the new Land Acquisition Act. They will get relief wherever it is justified. But can they disclose how much land is in their possession which is not being used for industrial purposes? The corrupt system never demanded to collect this information nor did the industrial houses ever thought it fit to make these disclosures in their Annual Reports prominently. There is perhaps not even one corporate conglomerate that has not created real or fictitious companies by the dozens. Assets of the holding company are assigned to non-entity sister concerns. But 100000 of hectares of surplus land remains in the possession of the corporates, where agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, apiculture, pisciculture and other activities are abundantly carried out in all gayness.They are the new Zamindars, they are the new Royals, they are the new plutocracy of free India. Government should facilitate the acquisition of land by the new industry, but only as much as required by the project and not in excess under the mask of industry. Land acquisition should not become an excuse for land grabbing.

And India Inc has to get out of the old addiction of getting things done by paying what they have termed the “service charges” and compensate it by palming off poor quality of goods and services.They have already been jolted in their slumber by the sales pitch and price war among the e-commerce entities like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and numerous others. No more arrogance of “take it or leave it”. Today the consumer has all the choice: warranty, guarantee, ease of business, delivery at door, return and cash on delivery . Does the India Inc think even now that its long exploited clientele will suffer them even in future? Why would the consumer buy faulty electrical appliances or other white goods if he suffers electric shock while using them or pays 40% price of an electric water storage heater for changing its coil which does not work even for 40 days? Why would someone even look at a television or mobile handset of poor quality, at high or low price, if he can have the world class goods at competitive prices? The business model has changed for ever. Can it be said about the India Inc. also? Not for the present. Therefore, the Industry  Captains must immediately upgrade their products and services to match the best in the world in order to stay afloat. They should react to the business acumen of foreign corporates who have identified the gaps in consumer needs and goods & services supplied by indigenous firms and entered the Indian market with a big bang supplying high value products like LED TV sets, Mobile phones, refrigerators, washing machines, cars, watches, apparel, shoes and all other life-style and fashion products. They have captured the market. They have come to dominate the market in less than 2-3 years. They will never vacate it for Indian companies. What will the Indian companies do? Become their retailers? Will it not be a new model of the East India Company? Whether yes or no, they are not responsible. It is the failure of the Indian companies for which they alone have to be blamed.They have still sometime to salvage the situation. They have to realize that they can stay in business only so long as they do their duty to the nation; they have to compete with the multinationals on every count and then only invoke people’s nationalism to buy indigenous.It is for them now to decide whether they will still go to the Finance Minister as usual with their list of demands of concessions in the Union Budget or turn a new leaf and also turn the corner.

It is public knowledge today that medicines are costly not because of production and distribution costs but because of dishonest business practices. Life saving medicines for diabetes, heart ailments, hip bone replacement surgery etc are priced so high that one gets a shock of one’s life when he finds the difference in prices at different shops or suppliers. This is not ethical. This can’t be considered fair trade practice. This is not service to the nation. This is crass exploitation. This is inhuman. It is inhuman because Indian companies find it more profitable to imitate the business practices of the multinational pharma giants, who find enough justification for their pricing methodology in the name of R&D, rather than finding their own formulations for all health problems. This in a country with longer history of medicines and surgery practices is not very assuring. How can we forget the coded message contained in the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra which says “Pushtivardhak” ? Isn’t the secret coded in the inedibles, including cobra venom and Halahal , offerings which are the favourites of Lord Shiva, the health giver (Pushtivardhak)? It is just a hint, a gentle nudge, for the Indian talent to explore, research, discover and develop. Our philosophy is healthy long life or Ayurveda, contrasted to mere treatment which at times goes on for life as in diabetes. If the Indian companies also start taking up one by one serious ailments and find cures for them, they will serve not only the people in the country but all humanity. This sector has been neglected for far long. It needs to be recalled that formulations were on the reserved list for long for the SSI (Small Scale Industry) sector. That reveals our mindset in matters demanding high investment in R&D.

The conclusion is: the government has moved towards cleanliness and transparency. It is now the turn of the Indian companies to follow suit. Economic progress of India depends on both moving in tandem. The new government under Narendra Modi has won the trust of the Indian people. The India Inc has to win the trust of the people yet. They have to accept the new challenge of Leadership of the economic advancement to place India firmly in the global arena to win the country place of pride by 2020. Are they ready to steer this mangalyaan (vehicle of prosperity)?

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